Posted by: Botolff | February 20, 2009

I get it…people can feel intimidated by me…now what?

I just got off the phone with someone from the church I worked at.  I like him.  He’s got some guts.  About four months after I was thrown out, he got in touch with me to “see how I was doing.”  I told him if he really wanted to know, I expected him to keep our conversation confidential until we both felt it was o.k. to do something with it, and I wanted him to know that with understanding comes responsibility.  If he could accept those two things, I’d be willing to meet with him.  I didn’t hear anything back from him for another five months, until a few days back.  He wanted to talk about some things not related to the church.  I told him I’d be willing to chat with him for a few minutes about his chosen topic.  I also knew he would likely ask how I was doing.  As I suspected, when he called, he asked that question.  I decided to give him an option.  I asked him if he wanted the easy answer or the truth.  He said he wanted the truth.  So I told him every day since the end of last May, I have spent some time trying to recover from the back ally beating I got from the pastor’s wife and the leadership of his church.  (Side note: I can be very forthright and blunt at times.  But usually only when it’s necessary to be that way.  I think it’s necessary now, because anything less would be covering for people who beat me up and left me for dead.  I did that long enough, and I’ve paid an even higher price for being that gracious, as a number of people have taken advantage of that.)

I won’t fill you in on all the details of our conversation, but I will say this…I asked him what he had heard about what happened.  He told me that he felt really out of the loop, but that one thing he had heard is that a number of people, parents of students particularly,  felt intimidated by me and didn’t know how to approach me; or that I didn’t want to hear what they had to say.  He also said that some people think I have become an angry man.  I told him, in regards to interacting with parents, I have always tried to invite them to talk to me about what’s going on, and I never turned anyone away.  So, I’m not sure where that came from.  Also, in the beginning of my termination, I had made it clear to the pastor that I was willing to address the parents that I knew had concerns, and he told me “you won’t have a chance to talk with anybody until this process is over.”  In other words, he wasn’t going to let me face my accusers until after they got rid of me.  Another sure tell sign they had it in for me early on, and weren’t interested in working on anything together.  As for my anger, I told the man I was talking to that people shouldn’t hit someone in the back of the head with a baseball bat and then expect them not to be angry.  I told him I was furious, because I didn’t understand how anyone could treat someone the way the leadership treated me and get away with it. 

After my forthright response, I thanked him for being honest, and for risking talking to me even though it was uncomfortable for him as well.  I also told him that I know I can feel intimidating.  That’s something that I’ve had to come to grips with about myself.  Not so much that I believe I am intimidating.  I could be, if I actually set out to make people fear me.  But that’s not my intention.  I’ve never had anyone tell me that’s how they feel about me, and I’ve asked people.  It’s just that I’m willing to challenge the relational structures that exist and call a spade a spade when it comes to disrespect and abuse.  That’s strength, not intimidation.  But consequently, people can feel intimidated by that.  Especially if they would rather remain a bully or coward than face their own faults alongside the rest of us.

It seems like it’s pretty easy to blame someone for our own feelings of intimidiation.  What about owning our own cowardice?  It’s interesting to me that they would throw me out of the church because they feel “intimidated” by me, while there are people still in the church that can go into a verbal rant and tear others apart to their face and not experience any consequences for it.  That’s intimidation.  When the leadership team manipulated the scenario to try and make me resign from a position they were actually throwing me out of; when the pastor and head elder threatened me to keep quiet; when they methodically took away parts of my severance package and then not only lied to the congregation about what they were doing, but attempted to cover it all up…that’s intimidation.

I think maybe a lesson on the differences between intimidation and strength might be valuable.  The problem though, is that many people are too scared, or maybe intimidated, to have those conversations.  Hence the reason why communities like this are greenhouses for abuse.  By killing off the people willing to look for the truth, and catering to people who are willing to kill the truth off, they set themselves up by pouring miracle grow on the intimidators, and cutting out the ones who seem intimidating, but are strong enough to face the people who really are. 

We can be a screwed up people can’t we?



  1. I think this is the kind of horrendous behavior that calls for legal action if one wanted to take it there. I am so sorry to read this, that another human being, associated with the church of all things would behave so immorally to you. I came across this posting from google. Every so often we see people and incidents in this world that show human beings, regardless of their religious and social or even professional affiliations come in all forms, from gracious to base. May God give you the courage to take the action you should, the action that is best for you. Courage is not the absence of fear but the presence of fear and the willingness to go on. It sounds like you definitely have courage! Be strong. As a person who is found intimidating to many, for standing up for myself, truth, and sometimes having an unpopular opinion, I can empathize. Be the strong, smart, effective person God made you to be and do not look back.

    God Bless,

  2. Sorry for the delayed reply Fay. I had hoped to get back to you sooner. I wanted to say thanks for your comment. It was very encouraging. I too am sorry to hear you have brushed up against the painful kick-back of standing up for yourself and the “unpopular opinion.” Thanks for noticing that I have stood strong with courage in this situation. It is my hope to continue to do so.

    I hope to read more words from you. We would benefit from your insight!



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